My Survival Story

Photo of Garrett Acker.

Homeless was not a word that I ever thought of. I never thought that one day I would be living in a doorway at New York Avenue and 13th Street. It did happen, though. My name is Garrett Acker and I have no problem stating it here because since I came to Street Sense, my life has made a 180-degree change.  

My life started in Chicago, Ill., where they have a paper called Street Wise, similar to Street Sense. I never paid them no mind at all. I grew up in an extremely rich family. My dad owned about five businesses and worked 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. He never spent any time with me. I used to wait on the stairs for him to come pick me up every weekend after my parents divorced. From that time, I became a very rambunctious kid.  

Moving forward quickly gets me to the age of 12. That is when I started smoking cigarettes and pot. By the time I was 14, I was doing heroin on a daily basis. That is when life became a whole new game. I tried to think I was a functioning addict, but really, I was just the worst person you could meet.  

With my family being rich, I was given $200 a day to support my habit. It also showed how much they cared about me. They didn’t care what I did. I did graduate high school, and had some college. I decided to go touring with the Grateful Dead and just went from city to city, which also gave me great street sense, mainly because in every city I went to I had to find heroin. If not, I would be sick as a dog.  

Finally I settled down in Chicago and worked as a brick mason for years. I made really good money. I was able to pay my bills and also do heroin. Eventually I couldn’t do it anymore, so I called my mom in Virginia and right away, she came and got me. It was January 1, 2000.  

I stayed clean for 6 months when I got here. But eventually, I started looking for heroin and I found it. That is when the cycle began again. This time I was in and out of rehab, but nothing worked. I was living on the street when my family finally disowned me.  

That is how I got to New York and 13th Street. In between, I did some prison time in federal prisons throughout the United States. My mom ended up getting me involved with church. That is what did it for me. After that, I started to stay clean and began seeing a psychiatrist once a month. With that, I overcame issues with family and drug abuse.  

Today, I have a wonderful family and I love them dearly. I have been clean for four and one-half years now and love every minute of it. I am on disability for psychological reasons. It just pays my rent and that’s about it. Street Sense gave me the chance to help the homeless by buying papers and selling them. That gives me the extra income I need to survive and keep my place. The main thing is that Street Sense helped me so much and lifted my spirits again. I was getting depressed because I wasn’t working and was just being a couch potato. I don’t care if it rains, sleets, or snows – it makes me feel good to have a sense of working again. At the same time, I’m giving back and helping Street Sense, an organization that helps so many homeless people.  

Being homeless is horrible. I’ve been beat up while sleeping. People would pee on my stuff. I was so addicted to heroin that I didn’t care. Now I am working on getting my Certified Addictions Counselor License, and also a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering at UDC. To end this, all I can do is give praise to God and thank him for all the gifts He has given to me.  

God bless everyone who reads this and always remember there is hope. That is what Street Sense and God have shown me. Everyone can start with Hebrews 11. Read it every day for a year so you can get a grip on FAITH!!! Thanks for reading and you will hear more from me.  

This is my first article and there are more to come with more detail. God bless everyone!!!!  

Garrett has been a vendor for Street Sense for three months and plans to go back to school in 2009. 

Issues |Addiction|Health, Mental|Spirituality

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.